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How to Find a Job in China

Patrick Kim | November 05, 2016 | | 4 Comments
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China has no shortage of jobs opportunities for foreigners, but the best opportunities aren't always forthcoming via a conventional job search. Part of the reason the job search in China is more complicated is that while "guanxi," (关系 guānxì) or relationships, are a fundamental part of the business culture, it takes time to develop such connections. While you should never give up on building guanxi, diversifying your job search will give you the best options for employment. Fortunately, many Chinese companies, especially tech companies, are looking outside their networks to fill positions requiring foreign expertise. Your future employer might be trying to find you through network referrals, job fairs, or by keyword searching for your niche skillset, possibly on a job site you haven’t heard of yet. 

Internet Searches (English)

Internet job searches are less straightforward in China, as some mainstream sites like Monster.com are seldom used by Chinese companies. While you will want to start your job search by making sure your LinkedIn profile is optimized, China expat-specific job sites can expand your search, and can be navigated in English.

The first step you will want to take in your China job search is to update LinkedIn and add any connections who might expand your network, as it is widely used by Chinese recruiters and hiring managers. Headhunters who may have close relationships with HR managers at technology companies can recommend you for positions your experience normally wouldn’t qualify you for. There is opportunity here to be noticed by recruiting consultants who have connections to top companies in China, and may give you an opportunity to apply for a job you might not normally qualify for if you hit it off with them. To get more attention from recruiters, consider joining LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry, where you can start discussions or look for more people to connect with. As for the LinkedIn job search, most jobs advertised require significant experience, and tend to be limited to large Chinese multinationals, foreign companies and local companies that are experienced with hiring foreigners. If you are a recent graduate or have less than three years of experience, LinkedIn's job search might not be ideal for you, but it is always a good idea to updated LinkedIn because it functions like an online resume that hiring managers are likely to look at before they pull you in for an interview.

Despite having rather unaesthetic user interfaces, China expat job sites offer a lot of opportunities. Some of these websites will automatically scan your resume to help you quickly build a profile through which hiring managers can find you, and which will match you with suitable opportunities. You can also write a targeted short self-introduction that functions somewhat like a cover letter or LinkedIn summary. These sites are ideal for finding jobs in Chinese SME’s (small and medium-sized enterprises) with a demand for your niche skill set. Some of the best English language sites include Chinajob.com, expatjobschina.com, amchamchina.org, and projectpengyou.org. City-specific expat community classifieds like the thebeijinger.com and shanghaiexpat.com have been known to offer the occasional unique opportunity, but most of the listings are for English teaching or part-time work.

Internet Searches (Chinese)

While the lesser-known China expat-specific sites give you an edge over the crowd going through the mainstream ones, the Chinese language sites give even more of an advantage in the job market. As long as you can type in Chinese, you can take advantage of Chinese job searching sites like lagou.com, 58.com, and ganji.com. My quickest job search was with Lagou's (拉勾 Lā gōuapp, which I had been on for only a few hours before I was contacted by a company that eventually hired me. Using a Chinese language site indicates cross-cultural savviness, and could be the quickest way to get offers in the job market that strongly favors those with Chinese skills.

Directly Contacting a Hiring Manager

While long cover letters are not common in China, writing a short but effective targeted email might be the best way to call a potential employer's attention to yourself who would otherwise be on the fence about your suitability for the employer's company. In this email, you need to accurately represent your unique market value as it applies to your audience's interests and concerns. Look to varied resources in trying to find the right company to apply to. The American Chamber of Commerce’s directory lists enterprises vetted for certain standards. Some other resources you might turn to are the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, or Hoovers.com, an online directory of businesses. Meanwhile, following the news for signs that companies have just raised capital, reorganized, made an acquisition, reported profits, or announced new products can help you target large companies. Smaller companies can also be located by looking at the suppliers of large companies that are expanding. If you are fortunate enough to know or meet someone within the company, ask that person about the company’s situation and needs, as well as about key decision makers in the hiring process. Finally, ask yourself the tough questions: Why should they hire you over a bi-lingual local with the same skills and who is asking for less money? What is the situation of the company right now, and how does your unique value apply to it? The answers might not immediately be apparent, but with each job inquiry, you will find yourself better understanding your value in China. 

Non-Traditional Job Searches

Sometimes the best way to look for a job is to create your own opportunity by convincing a company of its need for your particular skillset. China is a land of opportunity for those who fuse cross-cultural skills with other hard skills and soft skills. You might not be getting the best out of the job market in China if you don't look to create your own demand by being proactive. Most HR professionals want to look for candidates in the same way that most people search for jobs – passively by searching or browsing. Chinese SME's especially are treading on unfamiliar ground when it comes to hiring foreigners, so you will be making their job easier if you approach them directly with your own proposal. 

In addition to LinkedIn, Chinese social media sites like WeChat and Weibo can be useful for letting people know you are looking for work or for advertising your personal brand. Writing a blog article, advertising your portfolio, or creating a discussion are ways you can generate buzz and be found by a prospective employer. While developing a personal brand may take time and luck, your online profile will also help you network, and will definitely look impressive during the interview process when HR managers do an internet search of your name or add you on WeChat.

Networking

Networking, or “guanxi,” underlies the business culture in China. Guanxi is more personal and friendly than business relationships in the West. Many people land a job or forge a partnership through someone they met while chatting at a bar, or through the network of a trusted friend.

What is good about the phenomenon of networking in China is that it isn’t just limited to professional events or job fairs. People are very approachable in major Chinese cities, and many will be eager to learn something about where you are from as well as practice English. Chinese business owners are often interested in going abroad, and locals are enthusiastic about the prospect of meeting someone who can help them develop ties to another country. Enrolling in a business program at a Chinese university or finding a group of like-minded individuals on a website like Meetup.com are other ways to expand your career network.

Job fairs for expats have good opportunities, but are infrequent. I found my first post-English teaching job through the Job Fair for Foreigners, which seems to happen only once per year. These events are usually very crowded, so if you plan to attend a job fair to speak with a particular company, you might try contacting its representatives in advance to schedule for a fifteen-minute on-site interview. Even if you don't, dress as if you are going to an interview, and make sure you have plenty of resume copies and business cards to hand out.

Networking events in China abound, but they aren’t easy to find if you are only willing to look for the ones targeted to English speakers. Every day, in a major city like Beijing or Shenzhen, there are tech conferences where top entrepreneurs and angel investors give speeches and hold panels. If you are interested in working for a tech company, these are great places to network. Don't let registration fee scare you away, as you can network outside the door, and eventually borrow someone’s badge to go in, or explain your case to the event staff, who are usually accommodating to foreigners. Whenever I attended one of these conferences, I always came out with a huge stack of business cards from people I had met. It was intimidating at first, but thanks to these events, the phrase "能换一下名片吗?“ (can we exchange business cards) is forever ingrained in my head. Come prepared with business cards English on one side, and Chinese on the other so you can exchange business cards the Chinese way

Read Next: Do's And Don'ts Of Interviewing In China

 

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Patrick Kim

Patrick Kim

Patrick Kim is an editor at TutorMing. He has a B.A. in East Asian Studies from UCSB, and has worked in China for 3 years. His hobbies are soccer, being outdoors, and studying Chinese.

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